How staff wellbeing has become a big challenge for businesses

Businesses will have to rethink how they engage with their staff over the way they operate, as the country begins to emerge from the pandemic, according to a leading people development expert.

The Black Lives Matter protests last year have led to an increasing number of employees wanting their organisations to do more on diversity.

Daphne Doody-Green, inset, head of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in Northern England, says firms are having to navigate new ways of working with the pandemic changing people’s expectation of how they work and where they work from.

Ms Doody-Green told The Yorkshire Post that one of the biggest challenges has been managing the wellbeing of the workforce.

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She said: “I would say wellbeing is absolutely at the heart of some of the biggest challenges that HR (human resources) and employers have had to deal with.

Daphne Doody-Green says wellbeing is at the heart of some of the biggest challenges.

“Now, as we come out of the pandemic, it’s about how we get back to some kind of new normal. How do we deal with issues around long Covid? How do we sustain that level of productivity and performance when we are looking at other ways of working?

“It is about really bringing our people with us, looking after their wellbeing, making sure that they are managed effectively.”

Wellbeing of the workforce is a “massive issue”, Ms Doody-Green says, complicated by the fact that staff are often working in different ways from different locations.

It has put a lot of pressure on professionals working in HR and people development. She added: “They have been under so much pressure to deal with all this change.”

While many office-based industries have been able to switch to home working and may now be able to adopt a hybrid approach or even allow permanent home working, others haven’t been afforded the flexibility.

The pandemic has led to a lot of employees reassessing what they value the most at work with CIPD’s Good Work Index showing that wellbeing is at the top of people’s concerns.

“The biggest indicator about where employees heads are at is around whether their wellbeing is being looked after,” Ms Doody-Green says.

Social cohesion – whether an employee’s getting the proper level of support at work – and pay also registered high in the survey.

Ms Doody-Green added: “What we can see through the research is that people want more flexibility.

“There’s been an opportunity to work differently, to drop kids off at school or be available more for family.

“Values are personal but I think there has definitely been a shift in people’s opinion around work and how work gets done and how they can perform but still have the choice to manage their home life better.”

CIPD has long campaigned for people to be allowed to work flexibility where possible.

“Flexible working is a huge part of future workplaces,” Ms Doody-Green said. “Firms need to engage with their staff, understand what their customers’ needs are and make the right decisions around how people can work, how work gets done.”

She added: “What we do know is our region has been identified as a not-spot in our recent flexible working campaign, which means we’re not taking the opportunity to access a different talent pool and really embracing flexible working.”

CIPD has also called for ethnicity pay gap reporting to become mandatory for all large employers with just 13 FTSE 100 companies reporting their ethnicity pay gap in their latest annual report.

Ms Doody-Green said: “There has been a huge amount over the last year around the importance of equality and inclusion more broadly. The importance of reporting gender pay gaps was where we started and the parliamentary debate has now moved into mandatory ethnicity pay reporting.

“Certainly from the CIPD perspective, we absolutely want some of those bigger, progressive organisations to look at dealing with inequality in the workplace.

“We understand it is complex. It’s not going to be easy but if we really want to create truly inclusive and diverse workplaces where everybody gets a fair chance then we have to be more transparent in this area.”

The Black Lives Matter protests last year have led to an increasing number of employees wanting their organisations to do more on diversity.

“That’s going to come through even more so as we think about the future workforce,” Ms Doody-Green said. “We’re doing some research with people who are not yet in the workforce to understand what the drivers are of good work for them.”

She added: “The George Floyd incident has made many organisations rethink and really challenge themselves to have uncomfortable conversations.

“Even in our own profession we have lots of work to do in terms of diversity.”

Plan for all scenarios

Businesses should not let their guard down yet when it comes to the pandemic, according to the head of the CIPD in Northern England

“What the pandemic has taught us is it’s really important to plan scenarios,” Daphne Doody-Green said.

Firms will need to be pragmatic and agile.

“We haven’t been used to this kind of change in organisations so it requires quite a different kind of skill set as well,” Ms Doody-Green added.

CIPD has created a hub giving everyone – including those who aren’t members – access to advice on dealing with coronavirus. More information can be found at https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/coronavirus

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